Don Easterbrook is a zombie

by Gareth on March 18, 2013

Don Easterbrook is back, and his misunderstanding of Greenland’s climate history rides again in two remarkable posts at µWatts — attempted demolitions of the new paper every denier worth his (or her) salt is frothing at the mouth to claim has been rubbished, the 11,300 year global paleoclimate reconstruction of Marcott et al1. Unfortunately Easterbrook is as far off the mark in his two essays at µWatts (one, two) as he has ever been, which makes not only him look stupid, but everyone who relies on his “work”2.

The easiest thing for me to do to debunk Don would have been to republish this post from January 2011, because all of the points I make there remain true, and are sufficient to discredit Easterbrook’s interpretation of Greenland temperatures and their relevance to Marcott et al, but this time round Don has actually added a couple of extra mistakes — I presume just to keep people like me on their toes. So, for the record, here are Don’s new errors:

  • In a graph in his first “paper”, Easterbrook adds 0.7ºC to the last temperature point on the GISP2 Greenland temperature record to represent warming over the last 100 years. As I pointed out two years ago, you can’t use Greenland as a proxy for global temperature changes, because temperatures there are much more variable the global average — approximately twice as variable, as I quantified here. Warming in that part of Greenland has been more like 1.4ºC over the last century.
  • In his second “paper”, Easterbrook refers to the “top” of the GISP2 core as being 19503. Unfortunately, he’s wrong (again). The temperature series is dated in years before present (BP), where present is defined as 1950. That makes the last temperature point on the GISP2 reconstruction 95 years before 1950 — in other words, 1855. All the fiddling with local temperature records that he does to try and demonstrate that current Greenland temperatures are not much different to 1950 are not only juvenile4, but wrong headed because he still remains confused about the data he’s fiddling with.
  • In one respect he remains entirely consistent: he still can’t spell Kurt Cuffey’s name.

And finally, just to explain why Don and Tony and James and Steve and everyone else have got their knickers in a twist, here’s the big picture: temperatures through the last ice age stitched on to Marcott et al’s Holocene reconstruction, with what we expect to happen over the next century pasted on to the end. If that looks like a brick wall we’re about to run into, then you’re probably right.

Shakun marcott hadcrut4 a1b

[Graph courtesy of Jos Hagelaars and Bart Verheggen]

  1. A. Marcott, J. D. Shakun, P. U. Clark, A. C. Mix. A Reconstruction of Regional and Global Temperature for the Past 11,300 Years. Science, 2013; 339 (6124): 1198 DOI: 10.1126/science.1228026 []
  2. That means the Heartland Institute’s James Taylor, who relies on Easterbrook’s efforts in his latest Forbes article, and looks like a chump because of it. Well, he already looks like a chump in many respects, but this is a doozy, as chump-making status goes. []
  3. “The Medieval Warm Period was 1.1° C warmer than the top of the core (1950)” and “The top of the GISP2 ice core is 1950 AD, so we need to look at more recent temperatures in Greenland in order to get to the ‘present temperature’ ” — a small advance on his earlier belief that the top of the core was 2000AD. []
  4. In one graph he draws a red line between two single years, cherry picking an old reconstruction and single years to get his desired result. []

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Thomas March 18, 2013 at 9:36 pm

From hockey stick to brick wall…. indeed.

The graph says more than any words probably could.
I guess it would be worthy to be printed on post cards which might come handy when writing to politicians or policy makers as a gentle reminder that we are going towards exceptional times.

bill March 18, 2013 at 10:13 pm

Also, fans can sing-along-a-zombie with the legendary (in his own lunchtime) A Scott (A True Scott, we wonder?), over at SkS.

These people are all highly entertaining – if only they weren’t real!

Sou March 19, 2013 at 1:27 am

It amazed me to learn that Don Easterbrook was once a professor of geology. I wonder was he ever let loose in a classroom?

As well as using wonky, mislabelled denier drawings, there is so much wrong in Don’s essays, starting with his long whinge “nowhere is any real data presented”, despite it being provided with the paper on the Science website, as a spreadsheet clearly marked “Database S1″ and accessible to everyone, not just subscribers.

Given Don can’t find his way around a scientific journal, or know anything about dating conventions, you’ve got to wonder did he ever do any research himself (or did he manage to get tenure, then sit around the campus all day twiddling his thumbs).

John Russell March 19, 2013 at 12:04 pm

I posted that graph on Twitter the other day with the words (I paraphrase), “See the nice smooth temperature curve? That’s the effect of the natural cycles of the Earth’s changing orbit and axis. See the spike on the end? That’s us.”

Bob Bingham March 19, 2013 at 5:01 pm

I like the graph because it shows the theory, prevalent in my youth, which said that we were heading into a new ice age. Which we would have been. I also like the story about the period after the war when the temperatures in Europe were falling and the ice age theory gained credence until a New Zealander sent a message up North to say that the temperatures here were going up! It was just the soot in the atmosphere that was blotting out the Sun and keeping the temperature down. All before satellites and the internet. A much simpler age.
Those stories are most probably urban myths but I like them.
keep looking at my web site the clicks are going up.http://www.climateoutcome.kiwi.nz/

mustakissa March 20, 2013 at 6:46 am

chump… doozy… must work on my vocabulary

Rob Taylor March 20, 2013 at 9:48 am

Easterbrook’s goal is surely to create an alternative narrative, from someone posing as a “scientist”, that can be trotted out by ideological ignoramuses such as Treadgold, Dewhurst and their ilk.

The whole point is to tell their audience what they want to hear, and create doubt that impedes action on climate change; scientific validity and physical reality have nothing to do with it.

Easterbrook’s academic career, such as it was, is over, but by manufacturing this piffle, he gets to feel important and appreciated within the denialosphere. No doubt, there are other perks as well, e.g all expenses-paid trips to conferences and welcome deposits into bank accounts he controls.

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